When we talk about treating the aches and pains associated with desk work, the conversation tends to focus on our backs. And—while yes, all that slumping can certainly leave the areas around your spine screaming for relief, your hips deserve just as much attention. Fortunately, there are a few easy hip flexors exercises that'll help your hip joint loosen up after a long day of sitting down.
The reason? "When you sit at your desk, your hip flexors shorten," says injury expert and physical therapist Rami Hashish, DPT. Your hip flexors are muscles located on the front of your pelvis, and they contract in order to make it possible for you to crease at your hips when sitting down. "So the muscles at the front of your hip serve to flex your hips, whereas the muscles at the back serve to extend them," he says. (Those would be your glutes, FYI, hence how you wind up with the dreaded dead butt syndrome after spending too much time seated.)
- Rami Hashish, PhD, DPT, body performance and injury expert and founder of National Biomechanics Institute
"When you sit, your knees are now closer to your chest than when you are standing, meaning, the hip flexors are in a shortened position. If muscles are in a shortened position for an extended period of time, particularly if they are not active, they get tight."
To remedy the situation, you'll need to both stretch and strengthen the area. Stretching will help to unwind tightness, and building strength will help prevent any future sitting-related pain from occurring. To get the best of both worlds, Dr. Hashish recommends cycling through these three hip flexor exercises once you sign off.
1. Alternating leg forward lunges
"This activity not only helps promote hip strength, but you also get a great dynamic stretch to the hip flexors of the leg in which the knee is closer to the ground," says Dr. Hashish.
How to: Start standing upright with your core tight and your shoulders back and down. Step one foot out in front of you. Bend both knees to about 90 degrees, lowering your hips toward the floor. The back knee should be pointed toward the ground, and the front knee should be aligned directly over your ankle. Return to stand, then repeat on the other side. Continue alternating for 30 to 60 seconds.
2. Glute bridges
This move is beloved by trainers and physical therapists alike for its ability to work your entire posterior chain—aka the muscles that run down the backside of your body. "This exercise will help in promoting hip extensor strength in your glutes while simultaneously stretching your hip flexors," says Dr. Hashish.
How to: Start lying down on your back with your feet flat on the floor, ankles under knees and hands by side on the ground. Push through your heels to raise your hips and butt toward the sky, pressing your knees forward away from you. Squeeze your glutes at the top, then lower back down. To ramp up the move's strength-training benefits even further, try a single-leg glute bridge, in which you extend one leg up toward the ceiling while you work, then alternating sides. Perform 60 seconds of double-leg glute bridges or 30 seconds (per side) of the single-leg variation.
3. Dynamic hamstring scoops
Because your hamstrings serve double duty to flex your knees and extend your hips, they suffer when you spend all day sedentary, too. "Sitting a chair, results in shortening of this muscle group as well," says Dr. Hashish. To loosen them, he suggests cycling through some dynamic hamstring scoops.
How to: Start standing tall with your feet under hips and staggered so the left is two steps in front of right. Flex your left foot to point toes toward ceiling, then in one smooth motion, bend over, reach arms down to frame your left foot, grazing floor, before raising them in an arc up toward the ceiling while you lift torso back upright. Continue for 30 seconds then repeat on right side.
For more moves that will help loosen your hips after a long day of work, check out the video below.
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